WEDNESDAY, Feb. 27 (HealthDay News) -- It's a common belief that type 2 diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar. While it's not nearly that simple, a new study bolsters the connection between the disorder and sugar consumption.
The study found that even when researchers factored obesity out, an association still remained between the amount of sugar in the food supply and a country's rate of diabetes.
"The old mantra that 'a calorie is a calorie' is probably naive," said study lead author Dr. Sanjay Basu, an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University. "Some calories may be more metabolically harmful than others, and sugar calories appear to have remarkably potent properties that make us concerned about their long-term metabolic effects. This study also suggests that obesity alone may not be the only issue in [the development of] diabetes."
Results of the study are published Feb. 27 in the journal PLoS One.
The prevalence of diabetes in the world has more than doubled over the last 30 years, according to study background information. That means nearly one in 10 adults in the world has diabetes, and most of those have type 2 diabetes. (The less-common type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that's not related to food intake.)
Although the development of type 2 diabetes is associated with obesity and sedentary lifestyles, not everyone with type 2 diabetes is overweight, according to the American Diabetes Association. A genetic susceptibility to the disease is also believed to play a role.
Previous research has suggested that obesity isn't the only driver in the development of type 2 disease, and some studies have pinpointed excessive sugar intake, particularly sugars added to processed foods.
To get an idea of whether sugar plays an independent role in type 2 diabetes, Basu and his colleagues reviewed data from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization on the availability of foods in 175 countries. They also obtained data on the prevalence of diabetes in adults from the International Diabetes Federation.
Using statistical methods to tease out certain factors, such as obesity, the researchers found that the availability of sugar in the diet was linked to diabetes. For every additional 150 calories of sugar -- about the amount in a 12-ounce can of sweetened soda -- that were available per person daily, the prevalence of diabetes rose 1 percent in the population.
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